Legal Case of the Week: Navalny and Ofitserov v Russia (ECtHR)

posted 29 Feb 2016, 04:16 by Rights in Russia   [ updated 29 Feb 2016, 04:34 ]
On 23 February 2016 the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) ruled in the case of NAVALNYY AND OFITSEROV v. RUSSIA  that the 2013 KirovLes criminal proceedings which led to the applicants being convicted of embezzlement of property belonging to the KirovLes timber company and sentenced to five and four years in prison respectively, later changed to suspended sentences, 'taken as a whole, constituted a violation of their right to a fair hearing under Article 6 § 1 of the Convention.' As The Moscow Times points out, the European Court of Human Rights 'accused Russia of violating Article 6 of the European Convention on Human Rights, which grants European citizens the right to a fair trial, and ruled that it must pay Navalny and Ofitserov €8,000 ($8,834) each as compensation for moral damages. Russia is also obliged to pay Navalny and Ofitserov €48,000 ($52,881) and €23,000 ($25,333) respectively in order to cover their legal costs, the RBC news agency reported.'

The Russian Justice Ministry has said it will appeal against the ruling. As RFE/RL reported, 'Navalny welcomed the February 23 ruling, saying in a statement "the time will come when we can obtain justice in a Russian court, and not only in the ECHR." Navalny said the ruling would oblige Russia's Supreme Court to overturn his conviction. But Russia passed a law last year claiming the right to disregard ECtHR rulings if they conflict with the national constitution.'
In particular, the ECtHR in its judgment noted: 'The [domestic] courts found the second applicant guilty of acts indistinguishable from regular commercial middleman activities, and the first applicant for fostering them. [...] It is confronted with a situation where the acts described as criminal fell entirely outside the scope of the provision under which the applicants were convicted and were not concordant with its intended aim. In other words, the criminal law was arbitrarily and unforeseeably construed to the detriment of the applicants, leading to a manifestly unreasonable outcome of the trial.'

Also: 'The first Kirovles inquiry was opened on 9 December 2010, three weeks after the publication of the big-time financial scandal relating to the East Siberia-Pacific Ocean oil pipeline project and implicating Russia’s top officials. Over the next two years the inquiry stopped and restarted several times, but in 2012 it was resolutely reopened under the direct orders of Mr Bastrykin, the Chief of the Investigative Committee. This upsurge came at a period when the first applicant was investigating Mr Bastrykin’s own off-duty activities; this investigation resulted in the publication of 26 July 2012 exposing Mr Bastrykin’s business and residence status as incompatible with his office (see paragraph 31 above). The criminal case was reopened under Mr Bastrykin’s direct orders, and this was reflected in his speech of 5 July 2012 when he deplored its termination and unequivocally pledged to take disciplinary action against any investigator failing to pursue the first applicant. It is obvious for the Court, as it must also have been for the domestic courts, that there had been a link between the first applicant’s public activities and the Investigative Committee’s decision to press charges against him. It was therefore the duty of the domestic courts to scrutinise his allegations of political pressure and to decide whether, despite that link, there had been a genuine cause for bringing him to justice.'
'Navalnyy and Ofitserov v. Russia,' European Court of Human Rights, 23 February 2016
'ECHR Rules Russia Must Pay Navalny €56,000 Over KirovLes Case,' The Moscow Times, 23 February 2016
'Russia To Appeal European Court Ruling For Navalny,' RFE/RL, 24 February 2016